Day 32: Resurrecting History

16 11 2009

In my course we spend a day discussing US business history; I do this because a lot of events today make no sense unless you understand the context in which they arose. For example, labor unions frequently seem like an incredibly pointless thing to our students (we live in the Southwest where labor unions are almost non-existent) until we talk about the early twentieth century, when business owners could use and abuse workers without consequence (and most of them did).

Like many folks, I am still angry at my high school history teachers for taking a potentially rich and interesting topic and reducing it to a meanningless exercise in memorizing dates. In the later years of my life I have come to enjoy history, so I am intent on making our short study of business history interesting and relevant. So, for the first time this semester, we used the iPhones for actual in-class research.

Read the rest of this entry »


Day 24: Paper vs. Plastic (revisited)

16 10 2009

Before letting my students work on their team projects, I collected some more data. Once again I was trying to understand how they view the connected learning initiative, the various technologies that go with it, and the advantages/disadvantages it brings to the game.

In my first round of data collection (done more than a month ago) I  found that the students strongly preferred taking their quizzes on the iPhone; this preference surprised me  because we faced so many problems with the technology early-on. Of course the challenge in assessing this sort of data is to determine not just what was said, but also why respondents said it. So my objective in this survey was to learn whether their strong preference for electronic quizzing was inherently about the mode of delivery, or whether  it was more about feedback timing; after all, a printed quiz takes at least a day to turn around (often longer) while the electronic version provides immediate feedback. Read the rest of this entry »

Day 8: Mr. Data

9 09 2009

dataDay 8 was our first round of data collection and the results were eye-opening. You can read the details of this first survey here (link later), but first things first: how did we get informed consent? As you may know, informed consent is a formal statement which tells the student important things like, “You can choose to participate or not participate in this research,” and “If you drop out, we won’t lower your grade,” and “We promise not to inject you with an eerie luminescent substance which might turn you into the Incredible Hulk.” Actually you only have to include that last one if you’re doing medical research.

Informed consent is a really good idea; it came about back in the 70’s when a fair number of psychology researchers were abusing undergrads for research purposes. So now all our research has to be approved before we can do it. Smart for the students, smart for the university.  The traditional way to do it involves paper (see my discussion here about “paper vs plastic”), so you wind up with a pile of papers signed by students. Read the rest of this entry »